book discussion

A to Z Book Challenge | Check In

Friday, March 24, 2023

 I don't usually take on year-long bookish challenges, besides the big Goodreads reading goal. However, I saw the A to Z book challenge getting a lot of buzz last year and thought it might be fun to low-key try it out. Primarily, I just want to read the books I was going to read anyway and then in the last few months try to finish up the letters I haven't read from yet. 

The A to Z Book Challenge

If you haven't heard of the A to Z Book Challenge before, it's fairly simple. It is a book challenge where readers try to read books with titles beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Words like "A" and "The" do not count and in some cases, letters Z or X can be found anywhere in the title. It sounds like a lot of fun and makes for some lovely graphics at the end of the year.

While this post is more for me to keep myself accountable, it may also come in handy if you are participating in the A to Z Book Challenge and are stuck on which books to read for which letter. I have read quite a few books already this year and thought I would check in to see which letters I still need to read from to finish the challenge. I'll list a few book possibilities for the letters I haven't read from yet. However, I would love to hear which books you can think of that start with the following letters.

Ashes to Ashes by Karina Halle | Beyond the Wand by Tom Felton | A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

Book possibilities for letter D:
The Dating Dare by Jayci Lee | Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson | The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill | Furyborn by Claire Legrand

Book possibilities for letter G:
The Geography of Lost Things by Jessica Brody | The Girls Are Never Gone by Sarah Glenn Marsh | The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Horror Hotel by Victoria Fulton and Faith McClaren

Book possibilities for letter I:
If I'm Being Honest by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegmund-Broka | The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab | The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling | Kiss and Tell by Adib Khorram | The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

Book possibilities for letter N:
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah | Never Vacation with Your Ex by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka | The Narrow by Kate Alice Marshall

Book possibilities for letter O:
On Location by Sarah Echavarre Smith | One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez | Only on the Weekends by Dean Atta

A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

Book possibilities for letter Q:
I have nothing on my TBR with the letter Q. If you have any book recommendations with a title that starts with Q, they would be much appreciated!

The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu

Spells for Lost Things by Jenna Evans Welch | A Tale of Two Princes by Eric Geron

Book possibilities for letter U:
Unfortunately Yours by Tessa Bailey | Under the Whispering Door by T. J. Klune | A Universe of Wishes edited by Dhonielle Clayton

Book possibilities for letter V:
Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto | Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson | Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen

Wicked Beauty by Katee Robert | XOXO by Axie Oh

Book possibilities for letter Y:
You Are a Global Citizen by Damon Dominique | You by Caroline Kepnes | Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli

Book possibilities for letter Z:
I can't think of any book that starts with Z. If you have any book recommendations with a title that starts with Z, they would be much appreciated!

Are you taking part in the A to Z Book Challenge? Which books would you read for each letter?

Top Ten Tuesday

10 Books that Left Me With A Book Hangover

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

When I finish a book that I absolutely adore, I usually have to take a moment with my thoughts. It's those kind of books where I have to take several days, where I can't stop thinking about what happened, that are truly special. All of these books quickly become favorites as they leave me reeling in a book hangover.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's topic is: Top 10 Books that Gave Me a Book Hangover:

The Charmed List by Julie Abe (a perfect balance of fantastical elements and romance - did anyone say a magical tea shoppe?)
Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall (a horror that will leave you on the edge of your seat)
Lore Olympus Volume 3 by Rachel Smythe (an amazing graphic novel series that reimagines Greek myths and characters!)

A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn (a good mix of a historical mystery with a slow-burn romance)
Terms and Conditions by Lauren Asher (a marriage of convenience that will make you swoon)
The Book of Azrael by Amber Nicole (So many amazing elements with this one: fantastic action sequences, the ultimate road trip, the one bed trope, snarky vampires!)

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev (such a fantastic Pride and Prejudice retelling!)
From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout (a surprising fantasy with some of my favorite tropes - royalty in disguise, the chosen one, and more!)
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas (dare I say one of Maas' best?!)

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson (a fun murder mystery with plenty of twists and turns)

Which books left you in a book hangover?

book review

Set Your Heart Aflame | When We Caught Fire by Anna Godbersen

Friday, March 17, 2023

 When We Caught Fire by Anna Godbersen

Publication Date: 10/2/18
Pages: 375
Source: purchased
It’s 1871 and Emmeline Carter is poised to take Chicago’s high society by storm. Between her father’s sudden rise to wealth, and her recent engagement to Chicago’s most eligible bachelor, Emmeline has it all. But she can’t stop thinking about the life she left behind, including her childhood sweetheart, Anders Magnuson. Fiona Byrne, Emmeline’s childhood best friend, is delighted by her friend’s sudden rise to prominence, especially since it means Fiona is free to pursue Anders herself. But when Emmeline risks everything for one final fling with Anders, Fiona feels completely betrayed. As the summer turns to fall, the city is at a tipping point: friendships are tested, hearts are broken, and the tiniest spark might set everything ablaze. Sweeping, soapy, and romantic, this is a story about an epic love triangle—one that will literally set the city ablaze, and change the lives of three childhood friends forever.
Emmeline’s upcoming wedding to the most eligible bachelor is the talk of the town. However, she is not quite ready to give up her first love, Anders. On a whim, she has her lady’s maid and best friend, Fiona, track Anders down to set up a secret meeting. This course of action strikes a match that lights the world on fire. 
  • Anna Godbersen, author of The Luxe trilogy and the Bright Young Things trilogy, is back in another historical fiction that is sure to blow you away. From page one, Anna Godbersen wows us with her magnificent writing. I admit I have never been a fan of the historical fiction genre but the way Godbersen writes it—half intrigue and half drama—makes you want to become a fan of the genre.
  • When We Caught Fire focuses on the strength of first love. The theme is terribly romantic yet almost forbidden. Its love triangle is entirely dramatic in true Godbersen fashion which makes you catch your breath at every turn. 
  • The story is told in two parts: before and after. Its structure is seamless. Godbersen even gives readers glimpses of the end with the narrators thinking of "later." Yet, no matter how delightful it was to guess how it may end, When We Caught Fire is wholly unexpected. 
  • The book follows Emmeline who is about to be married. Only she is suddenly nostalgic and wants to have one last fling with her childhood love (who she hasn’t made contact with in a long time). This fact alone will give readers a clue into who the protagonist is. She is selfish but also, borderline, unlikable. On the other hand, Fiona, Emmeline's lady’s maid, is the girl to root for. She is kind, hardworking, and devoted. 
  • When there is a love triangle afoot, readers are always choosing sides. The drama of When We Caught Fire will also make you choose sides. Anders is not as developed as the two girls, but he still makes a lasting appearance. He is both mysterious and mischievous. The friendly neighbor turned bad boy encompasses Anders which certainly makes him swoon-worthy. 
  • The Great Chicago Fire plays a role in this and it is so interesting to see nature as a conflict since YA rarely makes it one. Godbersen steps the drama up a notch and adds some danger to the mix. It makes for a heart pounding novel. 
When We Caught Fire is the book we have all been waiting from Anna Godbersen. She takes fact from history and fictionalizes it into a romance that will set your heart aflame.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top 10 Books On My Spring TBR (2023)

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

I am happy to report that while there is still snow on the ground, the weather is already feeling warmer and I think spring is almost upon us. I have plenty of books to devour during the season and I can't wait to dive in. I would love to hear about all the amazing books you plan to read this spring too!

I wanted to list this week's books a little differently than usual. Thus, I listed the books with a quick reason why I definitely want to pick up the book soon! Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's topic is: Top 10 Books On My Spring TBR:

Stars and Smoke by Marie Lu (The Hating Game meets Mission Impossible)
The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway by Ashley Schumacher (a romance set at a ren faire!)
The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni (a well-loved fantasy that all my friends tell me I will love)

Well, That Was Unexpected by Jesse Q. Sutanto (adored Dial A For Aunties by the same author)
The Bone Spindle by Leslie Vedder (The Sleeping Beauty meets Indiana Jones)
Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan (falling for the hype on this one)

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen (highly-rated paranormal fantasy romance)
Princess of Souls by Alexandra Christo (a Rapunzel-inspired fantasy!)
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton (murder mystery set on the high seas)

Throwback by Maurene Goo (a new release- comes out in April- from one of my favorite authors)

What books are you planning to read this spring?

book review

A Fantasy with Poignant Conversations | Wildblood by Lauren Blackwood

Friday, March 10, 2023

 Wildblood by Lauren Blackwood

Wednesday Books
Publication Date: 2/7/23
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley/ from the publisher in exchange for an honest review (thank you, Wednesday Books!)
Eighteen-year-old Victoria is a Wildblood. Kidnapped at the age of six and manipulated by the Exotic Lands Touring Company, she’s worked as a tour guide ever since with a team of fellow Wildbloods who take turns using their magic to protect travelers in a Jamaican jungle teeming with ghostly monsters. When the boss denies Victoria an earned promotion to team leader in favor of Dean, her backstabbing ex, she’s determined to prove herself. Her magic may be the most powerful on the team, but she’s not the image the boss wants to send their new client, Thorn, a renowned goldminer determined to reach an untouched gold supply deep in the jungle. Thorn is everything Victoria isn't - confident, impossibly kind, and so handsome he leaves her speechless. And when he entrusts the mission to her, kindness turns to mutual respect, turns to affection, turns to love. But the jungle is treacherous, and between hypnotic river spirits, soul-devouring women that shed their skin like snakes, and her ex out for revenge, Victoria has to decide - is promotion at a corrupt company really what she wants?
I have been highly anticipating this release since I read Lauren Blackwood's gorgeous debut, Within These Wicked Walls! Her debut was unexpected, absolutely incredible, and well-written. I was expecting something similar with Wildblood.

Wildblood is a fantasy that follows Victoria in the employ of the Exotic Lands Touring Company. When she is tasked to accompany her slimy ex-boyfriend, Dean, into the jungle with Thorn and his tour group, she is less than excited about the journey. Especially when the jungle itself begins to warn them against traveling farther. Wildblood by Lauren Blackwood is a slow trek of a book. With its weak romance plot, repetitive scenes, and my wildly high expectations, Wildblood just wasn't the book for me.

This book, unfortunately, did not meet my expectations. Initially reading the synopsis, I was expecting a bit more adventure in the jungle with a defined magic system. The magic or the science of the Wildbloods left me with more questions than answers. I suppose I wanted more background to these powers and, instead, readers were thrown into the world without much explanation.

The setting of the book takes place primarily in the jungle. I don't think I've read too many books with the jungle as a backdrop--a fantastical jungle, at that. While I wished to know more about the Wildbloods and what they could do, I found that knowing little of the jungle heightened the reading experience as I didn't know what to expect next. The jungle was filled with unknown creatures that even the tour leader had never come across. The setting was as much a character as Victoria or Dean was.

While I didn't connect with Victoria as well as I could, especially when it came to the romance of the book, Wildblood still was able to rise a reaction from me. If you are looking for a fantasy romance set in the jungle, this is not that book. The lack of chemistry between the two characters coupled with the overused trope of insta-love makes the romance disappointing. Despite the romance, the various themes explored throughout the novel were important. The discussions ranged from gender roles in the workplace, racism, human trafficking, and colonialism. The poignant conversations of Wildblood were done really well.

The best way to consume this book, I must say, is via its audiobook. When I was reading, I switched back and forth between print and audio. There are certain moments of Victoria's journey where the tour group sing and the audiobook makes these moments come to life. The book truly immerses the reader into the story, and it feels like the reader is a part of the tour group too.

Overall, Wildblood by Lauren Blackwood is filled with poignant conversations and a backdrop that is as much a character as Victoria. Unfortunately, my expectations were a bit too high going into this one. However, I fully intend to pick up more from Lauren Blackwood in the future.